There is an interesting piece by Bagehot in tomorrow's Economist where he examines the potential consequences of Alan Johnson succeeding Gordon Brown in the near future. This section of the article particularly got me thinking:
In an age when too few politicians have had a career before mounting the slippery pole, Mr Johnson can cite several. Raised by his sister in a council flat, he left school at 15, stacked shelves in a supermarket and at 18 became a postman. Once a Marxist, he rose through the trade-union movement, won the admiration of Tony Blair (Mr Johnson supported the abolition of Clause Four, Labour’s old commitment to nationalisation) and entered Parliament in 1997. He didn’t fiddle his expenses. In the new age of austerity in economics and sleaze in politics, this penurious and industrious back story would be especially useful in a face-off with David Cameron, the pukka leader of the Conservatives.
He has a strong back-story which makes him look like a real person with a real hinterland unlike Mr Cameron who has spent almost his entire life in and around politics. He talks like a normal person too and usually manages to avoid the sort of NuLab speak that makes people want to put their foot through the television.
But worst of all from Mr Cameron's perspective, Mr Johnson is the man most likely to campaign for and put on the ballot paper at the next General Election, a referendum on a proportional electoral system. Mr Johnson is a long term advocate of change and in the wake of the expenses scandal that has rocked the political class there is a very strong case for putting this to the electorate and letting them decide. Then, even if Cameron becomes Prime Minister, assuming the referendum passed he would be constitutionally bound to change the system for the following General Election.
What Cameron really wants is Brown to stay in place so he can slaughter the government at the General Election. The last thing he wants is a potential game changing switch of Prime Ministers at this late stage.
And that is the reason why if I was a member of the cabinet over the next few days, I would be planning how best to make it happen.